OK ME: Tornado death toll expected to climb

5:13 AM, May 21, 2013   |    comments
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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Medical Examiner confirms at least 51 people have died after Monday's deadly tornado, but there are reports that chaos in the wake of the disaster resulted in double counting of victims. Reuters says the death toll has been updated and reduced to 24.

At last check, officials at two hospitals say they've been treating more than 140 patients, including about 70 children, since the massive tornado hit suburban Oklahoma City.

Spokeswoman Brooke Cayot says nine of 57 patients who are being treated at the Integris Southwest Medical Center were listed in critical condition after Monday afternoon's tornado. Nineteen were in serious condition and 29 were listed in fair or good condition.

She said five of the patients were children who have since been treated and released.

OU Medical Center spokesman Scott Coppenbarger says his hospital and a nearby children's hospital are treating approximately 85 patients, including 65 children.

He said those patients ranged from minor injuries to critical condition.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is assuring Oklahoma's governor that the Obama administration will provide all possible help to the state after a massive tornado tore through the Oklahoma City suburbs.

White House officials said Monday that Napolitano called Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to tell her that President Barack Obama had directed federal emergency management officials and his administration to ensure no needs go unmet.

Moments after the tordado had dissipated, television video showed piles of debris where homes used to be near Moore, Okla., and vehicles littering roadways south and southwest of Oklahoma City.

Video aired by KFOR-TV showed a massive, dark funnel-shaped cloud over the area and, later, scenes of massive destruction. Entire neighborhoods were flattened.

The National Weather Service says that winds from the tornado are estimated at about 200 mph. That would be the high end of an EF4 tornado. It's possible it could end up reaching EF5 status.

NBC News reported that two schools were damaged in the tornado.

KFOR-TV reports that 30 of the students from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore were taken from the school to a nearby church just before the storm hit.

An Associated Press photographer saw several children being pulled out of what was left of the Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Rescue workers lifted children from the rubble before they were passed down a human chain and taken to a triage center set up in the school's parking lot.

The second school was located in Oklahoma City.

CNN.com reported that a hospital spokesperson said that the Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma has been evacuated after sustaining damage from the tornado.

A mix of volunteers and first responders spent the afternoonn and evening combing through debris across Moore looking for survivors.

People wearing neon-green vests were joined by residents in the search through rubble. Neighborhoods are flattened and homes blown apart.

Shards of wood and pieces of insulation were strewn everywhere. Television footage also showed first responders picking through rubble and twisted metal.

The suburb of Moore, where Monday's damage was concentrated, was hit hard by a tornado in 1999 that included the highest winds ever recorded near the earth's surface.

For information about how to help the victims of Monday's tornado, go to http://kare11.tv/12qmARA.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press and KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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